Commentary: Well water and your health: what you need to know and do

Commentary: Well water and your health: what you need to know and do
November 10
05:00 2016

Sarah Frantz

Guest Columnist

Ever wonder what’s in your well water? The Forsyth County Department of Public Health, Environmental Health division offers services to test your well water from properly constructed wells in order to protect your health.

As a private well owner, it is up to you to test your water to ensure it is safe to use. Protect yourself and your family by testing your water regularly.

When should your well be tested?

All newly constructed private wells in Forsyth County must be tested prior to establishing the well as a source of drinking water. This means the well must be tested before it is used. These tests check for bacterial and chemical contaminants, and should be conducted within 30 days of well construction completion.

After the initial testing to ensure the well is providing safe drinking water, you will need to keep up with testing your well. Well owners should check the wellhead once a year to make sure it is working properly and ensure that there are no cracks or openings where contaminants can get into the well water.

Well water should also be tested after any repairs, replacement of well parts, and after flooding events. Contaminants may enter your well through cracks in improperly constructed wells, if the wellhead is removed, or if the wellhead is underwater. Contamination of wells can also be caused by surface runoff, agricultural and construction activities, toxic spills and leaking fuel tanks.

The State Laboratory of Public Health recommends you test your well every year for total and fecal coliform bacteria. Every two years, test for heavy metals, nitrates,  lead, copper, and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Every five years, well owners should test for pesticides. If you know that pesticides are being applied in your area, test the well yearly for pesticides.

There are special situations that may require additional, or more frequent, testing. If you are pregnant or have an infant at home, you should test your water for nitrates.

If your well contains nitrates, do not drink the water or use it to prepare baby formula. Boiling does not remove nitrates, so use an alternate source of water instead. Additional and more frequent testing is also needed when there are known problems with well water in your area, flooding, land disturbances, or waste disposal has been found in the area. If you replace or repair any part of your well system or if you notice changes in water taste, color, or smell, test your well.

Well water testing services can be provided through Forsyth County Health Department by completing a water sampling request form and providing payment for the tests chosen. This form is available at

For additional information about private drinking water wells see the EPA website at

Sarah Frantz, MPH, CHES, is public health educator, Community Health Services, Forsyth County Department of Public Health.

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